|Syria rebels seize key border crossings|
Fighters take control of number of border points with Iraq and Turkey, while clashes continue around Damascus.
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2012 09:38
Syrian opposition fighters have taken control of a number of border crossings with Iraq and Turkey, dealing a new blow to President Bashar al-Assad.
Hakim al-Zamili, head of the security and defence committee in Iraqi parliament, told a local television station on Thursday that rebels were in control of the Abu Kamal border crossing, on the Damascus-Baghdad highway and one of the most important trade routes in the Middle East.
Qassim al-Dulaimi, Iraqi Army Brigadier General said about a half-dozen rebels also stormed the Syrian border crossing near the Iraqi town of al-Qaim.
He said the rebels forced the border guards from their posts but did not cross into Iraq. Al-Qaim is located about 320km to the west of Baghdad.
However, local Iraqi officials said two other major border crossings remained in control of the Syrian regime.
Mohammed Fathi, spokesman for the governor of Iraq's western Anbar province that includes al-Qaim, said the largest port at al-Walid, which is also located near the Jordanian border and accounts or an estimated 90 per cent of traffic between Iraq and Syria remained in the government's hands.
|In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria|
Iraq has has sent an entire army division to the Syrian border between al-Qaim and al-Walid, a spokesman for the Anbar provincial council has said. The border between Iraq and Syria extends for 605km.
Rebels have also taken control of two posts at Bab al-Hawa and Jarablus along the border with Turkey, AFP news agency reported.
"Rebel fighters seized control of the Bab al-Hawa crossing [in the northwestern province of Idlib]," the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"The crossing is under our control. They withdrew their armoured vehicles," said a rebel fighter who would only be identified as Ali, being treated for wounds on the Turkish side.
The carcasses of burnt-out Turkish heavy duty vehicles were scattered across the scene of the battle. Some 150 armed rebel fighters were in control of the post, which lies opposite Turkey's Cilvegozu border crossing in the southern province of Hatay.
Government offensive continues
Meanwhile, Syrian state-run TV has said government troops have recovered full control of a rebellious neighborhood of al-Midan in the capital Damascus.
"Our brave army forces have completely cleaned the area of al-Midan in Damascus of the remaining mercenary terrorists and have reestablished security," the broadcaster said.
The opposition has confirmed the move, with the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) saying regime forces backed by tanks entered al-Midan district, as gun battle continued for the sixth day in the capital.
Clashes were also reported in Kafr Souseh and Al-Hajar Al-Aswad on outskirts of Damascus between Syrian regime forces and rebel fighters.
The army also launched an assault on the Qaboon district for the first time on Thursday.
The Observatory said "more than 15 tanks and armed personnel carriers" were taking part in the attack on Qaboon, in the east of the city. - sumber